St Clair Cemetery, Mt Lebanon, Allegheny Co, PA

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Enlighten My Soul with History

Historical facts should not be a burden to the memory, but an illumination to the soul.  – Lord Acton(1834-1902)

History is fascinating, although most students in school don't quite agree with the sentiment.  How much can we learn about the past, our past, by digging into old documents as our country was being formed?

A cousin of mine and I have been hard at work digging and digging to try and uncover the definitive proof of the family of our Margaret McMillen (1762-1849).

She was born in Washington Co, PA, and died in Lower St. Clair, Allegheny, PA.  While there is no mention of her father's name, she did name a son Thomas McMillen, so we suspect that was most likely her father's name.  We have located three Thomas McMillens in the neighborhood, so trying to pin it down has been a struggle.  One is the brother of the good Rev. John McMillen, and one is an Irishman who came much later than the birth of our Margaret.

The other one is probably ours.  My cousin has been busy at the courthouse in Pittsburgh looking up land deeds, wills, and just generally scouring the countryside for any more leads.  Yep, JoAnn, you've done a superb job of looking into almost every dark crevice in Allegheny Co.

The one good lead we have is that Margaret's son, Thomas M HENRY, was named as an executor for his uncle Thomas McMillen, who lived in Robinson Twp.  So we know where he lived along the Piney Branch of Peters Creek, and we know he died in 1831.  Too bad, he didn't mention his sister in the will written in 1829.  Those mentioned in the will are his wife Mary, Mathew McMillen, John McMillen, Wm McMillen, James McMillen, Samuel McMillen, Joseph McMillen, Ebenezer McMillen and Anne McMillen.  According to the will, Ebenezer is not yet 21.

Also from the Union Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Robinson are:
McMILLEN John 79 1840
McMILLIN John 60 1853
McMILLIN John 84 1922
McMILLIN John Y. 3 1899
McMILLIN Joseph 45 1852
McMILLIN Margaret 79 1898
McMILLIN Margaret 59 1918
McMILLIN Mary78 1844
McMILLIN Sarah 80 1926
McMILLIN Thomas 76 1831

Just last night, JoAnn sent a new lead from A List Of Persons Names Exonerated On The Frontiers of Washington County for Being Distressed By The Incursions of Depredations of the Indians.  Of course, a Thomas McMILLEN in Robinson Twp is mentioned on this 1789 document.  Reading the names on the list is almost like looking at my family tree.  So many familiar names are there. What was interesting to note is these men on this list did not have to pay taxes due to the damages they sustained during Indian attacks.  Can you imagine this happening today?  Can you imagine how bad it had to have been?

This little tidbit sent me on a journey this morning to learn more about the Indian attacks suffered by these early settlers.  What I found in Boyd Crumrine's History of Washington County, Pennsylvania with Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Pioneers and Prominent Men (Philadelphia: L. H. Leverts & Co., 1882) made my hair stand on end.

Not only were there many instances of Indians attacking settlers, there were instances of men from Virginia who tried to "draft" the Pennsylvania men in to their militia.  Now, to be fair, that little southwestern part of Pennsylvania was fought over by both Pennsylvania and Virginia.  I just didn't realize the extent of the literal fighting, burning and killing by other settlers that accompanied that fight.  Not only did the families of southwestern PA have to suffer Indian raids, they also suffered from the men of Virginia.

I also was enlightened to learn how the settlers attacked the peace loving Indians just "cause they were there." Interesting reading if you like history.

Onward genealogy buffs to the next lead of enlightenment.

Ahh, genealogy.  Just can't top Lord Acton's words- Historical facts should not be a burden to the memory, but an illumination to the soul.  

©2012 AS Eldredge

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